After the caloric landslide and stress carousel of the holidays, we wake up on January 1st with renewed good intentions for weight loss and healthy lifestyle changes. This January might be a good one to make a resolution that will benefit both you and your pet. Get out there and WALK YOUR DOG! You know walking is good for you. You know walking is good for your dog. Twenty to thirty minutes of brisk walking every day can make a significant difference in your mutual life.
According to a recent study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over half of the dogs and cats in the U.S. are now considered overweight or obese. In a country battling an obesity epidemic, this probably comes as no surprise. Unfortunately, our overweight pets suffer the same health issues that plague their owners. In 2017, Nationwide, a leader in the pet insurance industry doled out over $69 million for medical problems related to obesity. Just as in humans, obesity can lead to health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, arthritis, and an overall reduced life expectancy. The good news is, pet obesity is absolutely preventable!
The physical benefits of walking are easily understood – increased cardiovascular health, stronger bones and muscles, lower blood pressure, maintenance of a healthy weight, and more. But regular walks can help keep your pet in good mental health as well. Behavioral issues are often born of boredom and long periods of confinement. This makes sense, as dogs are natural travelers. They’re not meant to sleep all day, eat dinner, laze away the evening, and then go to bed. They need to get out, sniff and investigate. Exercise can do wonders in keeping your dog in good mental health.
There are other benefits to regular dog walking – for you! It's free exercise. No membership required. And once you establish a rhythm, your dog will keep you on schedule - you'll have a hard time making excuses. Dogs are not fair-weather exercise buddies. Most dogs will get you moving rain or shine! Interestingly enough, people who walk their dogs are seen to be friendly and approachable by others. You get more smiles and comments from strangers when you have a dog attached. And walking together will strengthen the bond between you and your dog - and that is always a good thing.
If your dog hasn't been exercising regularly, start slowly. You can't run a marathon cold turkey and neither can your dog. Don't overdo it with brachycephalic breeds such as pugs and bulldogs. They are particularly susceptible to respiratory stress. Make allowances for the very young, the very old, and those that are already suffering from medical conditions. Lastly, avoid exercising during extremes of weather and in the heat of the day during the summer months.
You have nothing to lose, except maybe a few pounds, a few behavioral issues, high blood pressure, and well.....where's that leash?